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Painter’s 1831 work completed after his wife’s death is centrepiece of new exhibition at Salisbury Museum.
After 185 years, the trees around Salisbury Cathedral have grown taller and thicker, shrouding all but the magnificent tower and spire. But, remarkably, the water meadows are still as lush and unspoilt as they were in John Constable’s day.
This is the view, including the shallow stream that draws the eye toward the magnificent cathedral, painted by the acclaimed British artist in one of his most important and best-known works, Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows. And for the next six months, there is a rare opportunity to compare masterpiece and present-day view within a few minutes’ walk.
The painting, finished in 1831, is going home to the city for which Constable had a special affection, as part of a five-year tour, taking in Wales, Scotland and East Anglia. From Saturday, people will be able to see it at the Salisbury Museum in the cathedral close, alongside dozens of other paintings, watercolours, etchings and drawings of one of the country’s most awe-inspiring buildings.
“We are very excited that we’re displaying Constable’s masterpiece in the city that inspired him,” said Adrian Green, the museum’s director. “The museum is located opposite the cathedral, backs onto the water meadows and is adjacent to where Constable stayed in the close – so one can literally walk out into the canvas and see a landscape that has changed little since Constable’s time.”
Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows is one of a series of 6ft canvases painted by Constable. Encouraged by his close friend and archdeacon John Fisher, who lived in the cathedral close, he began to make sketches for the painting while grieving for his late wife Maria.
“Constable drew Salisbury Cathedral many times from different viewpoints,” said Gracie Divall of the Tate, which owns the painting and organised its tour around the UK. “It was the place he visited most outside his home in Suffolk. But this painting is seen as one he poured his emotion into, rather than just depicting what he saw in front of him.”
The turbulent sky provoked much comment when the painting was first exhibited; one Morning Herald reporter remarked that “the sky is in a state of utter derangement”.
Meteorologists have pointed out that the rainbow depicted in the painting would be impossible given the cloud formations. However the Tate has commissioned new meteorological research, to be published this year, which suggested that a rainbow over the cathedral was not beyond the realms of possibility.
“Constable was using the weather to tell a story,” said Divall. Some have interpreted the storm clouds as a reflection of the painter’s turmoil at his wife’s death; others suggest they reflect the storms surrounding the Anglican church – in which Constable was an ardent supporter of tradition against reform – at that time.
The painting was bought by the aristocratic Ashton family in 1850 but was on loan to the National Gallery for many years. When the family decided to sell a few years ago, the National Gallery was already committed to buying works by Titian in the most expensive purchase in its history.
The Tate stepped in, raising £23.1m to buy the Constable, described by the gallery’s director, Nicholas Serota, as “one of the great masterpieces of British art”.
A delicate cleaning process in 2013 “made a huge difference to the vibrancy of the work”, said Divall. “There was a lot of staining, mostly nicotine, from when it was in private ownership and from when people were allowed to smoke in galleries. The painting wasn’t glazed.” The cleaning process had revealed details such as a cow in the bottom left of the painting, she added.
The painting has returned to Salisbury once before, in 2011, when it attracted about 36,000 visitors. The new exhibition runs until 25 March.
Article extracted from The Guardian
During 2015 we are celebrating the 800th anniversary of the Magna Carta. Here in Salisbury we are particularly proud that our own Magna Carta is considered to be the best of the originals. Salisbury Cathedral also has the tomb of William Longespée, Earl of Salisbury, half brother of King John. Longespée is specifically mentioned in Magna Carta as an advisor to King John. Richard Poore, Bishop of Salisbury is described as a witness in the 1225 re-issue of Magna Carta on display in Washington & Canberra. In addition Salisbury has been the scene of many historic visits by the Kings and Queens of England over the last thousand years. This walk will look at the changes to liberty, justice and power, both in Salisbury and throughout the kingdom, over many centuries.
We shall see how the liberty of the people of Salisbury has been influenced by harsh Norman Kings, Magna Carta, powerful Bishops, cruel civil wars, severe punishments, a Rotten Borough and unjust laws. This walk is a journey from absolute medieval monarchy to the constitutional monarchy of today. From feudal law to parliamentary law. From royal power to people power.
Please see Magna Carta Walk Flyer 2014 (2).pdf for more details
6th, 13th, 20th, 27th June 2015
Walks start at 2.00pm and last for about 90 minutes.
Tickets £6.00 each and can be bought in advance from Salisbury Information Centre Telephone: 01722 342860
The Walks do NOT include entry to Salisbury Cathedral Magna Carta Exhibition.
For more information about these walks visit Salisbury’s Blue Badge Guides website
The Stonehenge Travel Company
Stonehenge and Salisbury Guided Tours
Salisbury Museum is extremely proud to announce a new exhibition of national importance, throwing new light on the earliest work of the young artist J.M.W. Turner in and around Salisbury and its magnificent cathedral.
The museum is situated a few meters from Salisbury Cathedral in the historic town of Salisbury, where the 800 year-old Magna Carta will be displayed in 2015. Salisbury Museum is also less than 20 minutes by car from the ancient monument of Stonehenge, and houses a fabulous new gallery where the archaeology of Stonehenge can be explored.
Building on recent successes, particularly the 2011 exhibition exploring Constable’s links with the area, Salisbury Museum will showcase Turner’s meteoric rise as he worked for two very rich patrons in the Salisbury region.
Turner first visited Salisbury in 1795 when he was 20 years old. As his career developed, he returned to paint an area that captivated him as an artist. Set in the vast plains of the Wessex landscape, his depictions of Stonehenge in particular proved to be among his most hauntingly atmospheric works.
In the late 1790s, Sir Richard Colt Hoare commissioned Turner, then barely into his twenties, to produce a series of watercolours of Salisbury, the most impressive of which depict the newly restored great cathedral. Hoare was a wealthy gentleman-antiquarian who inherited the nearby Stourhead estate in 1784. His involvement in the first archaeological surveys of the ancient landscapes around Salisbury led him to publish volumes documenting the history of Ancient and Modern Wiltshire.
Another local patron, who gave the young Turner invaluable work, was William Beckford, described by Byron as ‘England’s wealthiest son’. Turner turned down a commission to work with Lord Elgin in Greece for a year, in favour of Beckford’s much more lucrative commission to paint the famous folly that Beckford was building at Fonthill.
The third part of this exhibition will chart Turner’s fascination with the wider Wessex region – spanning the area of Wiltshire around Salisbury, as well as the Dorset coast, Hampshire and the Isle of Wight. It culminates in Turner’s record of the historic visit made by the French King, the first such visit to England since the fourteenth century, to Queen Victoria in 1844
The exhibition has been selected by Turner scholar Ian Warrell to build a picture of a brilliant young artist, driven by self-belief and limitless ambition, grafting his way in the world.
The inventive and dizzying watercolours at the heart of the exhibition, reassembled for the first time since 1883, will show how commissions from Wiltshire’s great patrons provided the crucial springboard for the career of one of England’s best-loved artists.
The Salisbury Museum
The Kings House
65 The Close
Another great reason to visit Salisbury in 2015!
The Stonehenge Travel and Tour Company
Guided Tours of Salisbury and Stonehenge